HC Deb 02 June 1896 vol 41 cc304-10
MR. P. A. MUNTZ (Warwickshire, Tamworth)

said he rose to move that the House at its rising do adjourn till Thursday, the 4th June, in no jocose spirit, and with no view of cracking jokes such as they had heard cracked with great ability in bygone days. He intended to deal with the question in a serious spirit, and he thought he should serve his Church and his country by explaining that spirit to the House. He had an appeal to make to his Friends of the Church Party. He would not be in order in discussing the details of the Measure it was proposed to bring before the House to-morrow, but he might go as far as to say that the Benefices Bill was a national Measure, connected with our great National and Established Church, and as such was worthy of being dealt with in a bold and courageous manner, and not smuggled through the House on such a day as the Derby Day. [Laughter.] If they were to deal with the National Church and with the discipline of that Church—and he yielded to no man in his love for the dear old Church, and in his desire to see that disciplinary reform of which she stood in such great need—[Opposition cheers]—the Measure by which they dealt with it should be passed in a full House, and by a great majority, and neither could be obtained to-morrow.

MAJOR RASCH (Essex, S. E.)

seconded the Motion. As to the Benefices Bill, which had in some extraordinary manner been mixed up with the proposal for the Derby adjournment, all he and his constituents had to do was to vote against it.

MR. G. C. T. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)

said he had not ventured to trespass upon the House very much this Session—[laughter]—but he would like to say one or two words in opposition to the present Motion. To support the adjournment simply to obstruct and stop a particular Measure did not seem to him to be a proper way of approaching the subject. He approached the matter from a standpoint very different to that taken up by the hon. Gentlemen who had just addressed the House. During the years he had had a seat in the House he had heard many speeches on the question of the adjournment for the Derby. Some of them had been most entertaining. The most interesting was that of Lord Elcho, and if any speech could ever have convinced him to vote for the adjournment, that speech would have done. Unfortunately, Lord Elcho came down on the eve of the next Derby Day, and made another excellent speech, but on that occasion he proved conclusively that they ought not to adjourn. That year they decided by a large majority not to adjourn, but on the day the Derby was run a House was not made. Such incidents were very unsatisfactory; but he thought they had something more important to do than to consider the question of the adjournment of the House of Commons for the Derby race. He did not object in any way to sport. He was too old and not sportive enough to enjoy this kind of thing—[cries of "No, no!"]—anyhow he had no time for sport except the sport of the House of Commons. He did not object to see the Derby; he had seen it once, and if he could go comfortably there and back he would not object to go again. But the question really was whether it was not time to do away with the farce of adjourning the House for the Derby. ["Hear, hear!"] As a Conservative he did not see why they should adjourn. The idea of adjourning for the Derby was a new and somewhat Radical idea. The proposal was first made about 1847, but he asserted that the time had now come when they should do away with this folly. Either the business of the House was a serious reality or it was farce. In view of the amount of work before them this was not the moment to adjourn the House for any pleasuring such as a horse-race. But if they did adjourn for the Derby they ought to do so properly and bodily. They ought to request Mr. Speaker to go to Epsom himself. [A laugh.] They ought to take the mace there and have a grand stand all to themselves, and really do the thing properly. [Renewed laughter.] If they did that he might possibly stretch a point and attend the race. In his book "Democracy and Liberty," the hon. Member for the University of Dublin asserted that the House was deteriorating. If the House was deteriorating, hon. Members had now an opportunity of doing some little to retrieve their position. He hoped that the question of adjourning for the Derby would now be permanently settled. There was a time for all things. No doubt there was a time for horse-racing, but it was not on Wednesday when the House had plenty of work to do.

SIR WILFRID LAWSON (Cumberland, Cockermouth)

said that, unlike Lord Elcho, he had opposed the adjournment for the Derby whenever it had been moved. The hon. Gentlemen who moved and seconded the Motion, gave no reasons why they should adjourn over the Derby, but simply talked about some Bill that was to be brought on to-morrow. He read in The Times that morning that "the question of the adjournment for the Derby will be determined with very little regard to the real issue." He desired to put the real issue before the House, and it was whether it was rational, desirable, seemly, or even decent, that a great national assembly should give up its business and adjourn for a horse-race. What claim had a great gambling festival to the sanction, support, and patronage of this House? It seemed to him an extraordinary tiling that they should only give up two hours on Ascension Day and give up the whole of their time on Derby Day. [A laugh.] If they wanted a holiday why should they not take it on some decent occasion? Why not take it when the All England Eleven play the Australians? ["Hear, hear!"] He would vote for that. ["Oh!"] Well, he would not oppose it very strongly. [Laughter.] There would be a great deal to be said for that, because cricket was a noble and national game, which had not yet, he believed, been corrupted by the canker and cancer of gambling. ["Hear, hear!"] This was not only a Legislative Assembly, but it was an assembly to which the nation looked for guidance. Could anyone say it would either directly or indirectly tend to improve the conduct or the condition of the people in any way if they gave their sanction to this Motion? There was not a clergyman, not a minister of religion, not a person who visited the poor, who would not tell them that at the present day this vice of gambling was eating into the very life of the people. ["Hear, hear!"] And yet this great Council of the nation, was called upon to do something that looked very like spreading its protecting wing over these abominations. He hoped his Radical Friends would behave respectably on this occasion. [Laughter.] He saw his hon. Friend the Member for Northampton sitting below him. He looked like mischief. [Laughter.] He and his hon. Friend agreed in most political matters, and the main object of their political lives was to make this House paramount and supreme—and to get the better of the other House. [Laughter.] He wanted to increase its power, its dignity, and its influence for good, and did anybody think that they should raise the character of the House in the public estimation by carrying such a Motion as this? He hoped his hon. Friend the Member for Northampton would think better of what he was going to do to-day. [Laughter.]


And to-morrow. [laughter.]


I hope he will be able to carry his Radical Committee with him—[loud laughter]—and that I shall see him in the right Lobby turning away from his wickedness, and doing that which is lawful and right. [Laughter.] Continuing, the hon. Baronet said he would also appeal to his Conservative Friends. Lord Salisbury had said:— It is the improvement of the daily life of the struggling millions and the diminution of the sorrows that so many are condemned to bear, which is the task, the blessed task, that Parliaments are called into existence to perform. To take a step that day which at any rate had the appearance of seeming to sanction and encourage one of the main causes of their sins, and sorrows, and sufferings, would not be to carry out the policy which Lord Salisbury had so nobly enunciated. Could they not on that occasion have in the House something of the old public school feeling? Could they not all feel they were proud of that House, and that everything that touched its honour was dear to them? He hoped that would be their feeling that day, and that they would have such a decisive majority against this Proposition that it would never again be claimed that the House should support such a vulgar and ridiculous absurdity as this Motion.


said he was very fond of a horse. Next to a ship—[laughter]—a horse, he thought, was about the best thing that had been invented. He had also a toleration for horse-racing, but he agreed that this matter was not one to be settled on the merits of the Derby or of the occupations in which the people engaged who went to the Derby. The question was whether the House ought to interrupt its business on this particular day. In his opinion it did not consort either with the gravity of the House or with the importance of its business to adjourn over the Derby day on account of the race. It seemed to him that the arguments were against adjourning over to-morrow. That was in the abstract, but he came to the concrete. He had passed his Whitsuntide Recess in the study of those numerous Blue-books which were sent to them in such overwhelming numbers, and he admitted that he had been appalled by a Bill to which it would be out of order to refer, but which he had in the deepest recesses of his mind, and which he considered it would be unfortunate if it should pass. He had signed a memorial, he believed, against the adjournment over the Derby, but he had been placed in a very awkward position, because, on the one hand, he felt he had committed himself against the adjournment; and, on the other hand, he had during the Recess conceived it was absolutely his duty to do all he could to procure the adjournment. [Laughter.] He had reluctantly come to the conclusion that he must support the Motion, but he supported it in order to avoid a worse evil. He was, as it were, between two difficulties. He was between the Derby and the deep sea. [Laughter.] He was between the racecourse and he benefices, and of the two he preferred the Derby and the racecourse It was a very unfortunate position, and he had deemed it right to explain his vote in consequence of having signed the memorial. He should, with great reluctance, but as a case of conscience, go into the Lobby in support of the Motion.


said in consequence of the speech they had just listened to, he hoped the House would allow him to say a word. He would carefully avoid discussing the advisability or non-advisability of passing a certain Bill, nor was he going to discuss the Bill itself. He would, however, point this out to the House. A very important Measure—and whatever view they might take upon the matter they must agree that it was an important Measure—was carried by a large majority on the Second Reading. It was of a non-Party character; it was referred to the Standing Committee, and was adequately discussed there. A very great deal of time had been spent upon it, and there was now only one opportunity of getting the judgment of the House upon it as it stood. It would, he asserted, be absolutely destructive of the whole procedure of that Committee if, after all this time had been spent upon it, after an interest had been created upon it, the House should, upon such an occasion as was going to take place to-morrow, adjourn for a holiday. ["Hear, hear!"] Not upon the merits of the Bill but on behalf of the House, of Commons itself, he made a most earnest appeal to his hon. Friends to see that the efforts made to pass this Measure, which was promoted by a most important section of the Tory Party, and which was looked upon with favour by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, were not rendered absolutely futile, by the carrying of this Motion. ["Hear, hear!"]

The House divided:—Ayes, 58; Noes, 199.—(Division List, No. 205).